OUR MISSION: Documentary filmmaking is critical work, but can also be challenging and isolating. Since 1999, The D-Word has been a peer-to-peer global community that helps documentary professionals feel a sense of belonging. Through its online and offline programs and tools, The D-Word provides spaces for professional development, information sharing and relationship building, working towards greater sustainability and improved mental health for documentary professionals.
- An online discussion forum for documentary professionals from around the world;
- Virtual and in-person F2Fs (“face-to-face meetups) for networking, information-sharing, work-in-progress feedback, and social exchange;
- Special panels, talks, and forum topics that include coverage from major industry events and guests providing expertise on relevant topics.
- Providing a welcoming and open online space for working professionals in the documentary industry to share information, questions, successes, and challenges of filmmaking.
- Encouraging face to face connections and collaborations beyond the online space through organizing and encouraging others to meet up at film festivals, industry events, and in informal member-organized gatherings.
- Collaborating with other film institutions to further professional development, information sharing, and support systems for the field.
- Supporting and championing diverse voices in the documentary field by amplifying their messages and taking actions to encourage allyship and dismantle white supremacy in our industry.
The D-Word started in 1996 as a series of online journal entries by filmmaker Doug Block that reflected the joy and angst of making his feature documentary, Home Page. He called it “The D-Word” because, at the time, it was a dismissive industry euphemism for documentary (as in: "We love your film but we don't know how to sell it. It's a ‘d-word’"). In 1999, Block transformed The D-Word into a free forum for documentary professionals anywhere on the globe. Since that time, largely through word-of-mouth, The D-Word has grown to become a leading worldwide community for documentary filmmakers. It remains free to join, and currently numbers over 23,000 members from 157 countries.
The most impressive aspect of our community is the warmth and generosity of our membership. If you are looking for contact information for a particular distributor or festival, chances are they have a representative in our member database, or someone in our forum will share their contacts with you. Need a fixer in Nairobi? Ask The D-Word. Looking for feedback on your funding proposal or trailer? Post it on The D-Word or workshop it at one of our F2Fs. Whether you need a camera, crew, or cool-minded perspectives on hot topics, members of The D-Word are here for you. We’ve even teamed up to broker a prison release for a filmmaker. We have helped support each other through 9/11, the COVID-19 pandemic (through weekly video-chat meetups), and are reducing the stigma of sharing mental health challenges that are part and parcel with our work as a founding partner of DocuMentality. We are also working towards greater equity and transparency in the field by requiring pay or pay scale be included in job and gig classifieds. Here are just a few words from members over the years about the impact The D-Word has had on them:
"This community is unique in its generosity of knowledge and support. It provides a meeting place where people can ask for help and offer it in return. It is a lifeline for documentary filmmakers." - Laura Poitras
"It can be a very lonely business being a documentary filmmaker – your family/friends/partner don't really understand what you do and why you don't have a 'proper' job, and the films you make can fight you every inch of the way – from finding the funds, to grappling with the story, to getting it in front of an audience. The D-Word is our support group – a place to discuss ideas, learn invaluable skills, find collaborators or simply have a good moan and always find a sympathetic ear or a helpful suggestion. It's constantly inspiring to watch the community help solve intractable problems and make ambitious ideas feel achievable." - Mike Patterson
"When I first started making independent documentaries in 2001, I had no idea what I was doing. I had spent 20 years producing and reporting everything from local news to investigative stories, so I knew how to tell a story. I just didn’t know how to make one all by myself. Searching for help, I discovered this community called The D-Word. I wasn’t alone after all! If I had a question about anything, The D-Word was there for me. But by far the best thing about The D-Word is that, even though it’s virtual, it’s much more than that. We D-Worders are a family. Whenever I meet a D-Worder in person, there is an instant bond." - Melody Gilbert
"Technology has turned us into lone wolves: we shoot for ourselves, rough-assemble films on our kitchen table, stare at screens with earplugs that shut everything out. It’s efficient, sure; it’s also lonely. Only fair then that technology should give us something back: a new group of friends, most of whom we’ll never meet, spread to the corners of the earth, arguing and chattering and laughing about the shared dilemmas and obstacles and pleasures of this work." - Thomas Lennon
"Not only has The D-Word allowed me to expand my network, it has given me so much comfort and support during the struggles of the documentary filmmaking process. Guiding me through burnout, commiserating through challenges, and sharing vulnerably about mental health, this community has validated me in so many ways. It takes the sting of loneliness out of filmmaking. The D-Word community is supportive, honest, full of resources, and overflowing with talent. I have gotten so much value out of the topic-based threads, the searchable directory of members, and the weekly F2F meetings. I count myself lucky to be part of this community." - Carmen Vincent
"The best part of The D-Word is not virtual at all. It's in the real world. It's the real people that you wind up meeting and traveling with, collaborating together, hugging and loving. There is no doubt that the best new friendships and connections I have made in the last few years come through the documentary community in general, and in large part through The D-Word specifically, and that is really special." - Jason Osder
We pride ourselves in keeping membership in The D-Word free. Yet there are real dollar costs to running The D-Word, including platform fees, computer security upgrades, design costs, accessibility, honoraria to guest speakers, and modest fees for our program manager and video editor. If you would like to support these ongoing costs, you can make a donation through our fiscal sponsor The Film Collaborative.
If you want to contact the hosts, you can send an e-mail to info AT d-word DOT com. To reach any host or member of The D-Word, find them in People Search and locate their email address on their profile. PLEASE DO NOT INCLUDE US OR ANY OF OUR MEMBERS IN PROMOTIONAL EMAILS OR LISTS FOR YOUR FILMS, ORGANIZATION, OR SERVICES UNLESS WE HAVE ACTUALLY SUBSCRIBED.
Co-Hosts of the D-Word
Doug Block - New York, USA
Marj Safinia - Los Angeles, USA
Erica Ginsberg - Washington DC, USA
Peter Gerard - Brooklyn, NY, USA
D-Word Program Manager
Julie McElmurry - Charlotte, NC, USA
Alix Clements, Carmen Vincent, Gordon Skinner, Heidi Reinberg, Malikkah Rollins , Mitch Teplitsky, Simone Fary, Susan Kaplan, Veronique Doumbe Paul Steinbroner Philip Shane AK Sandhu Geoffrey Smith Michael LaPointe Bruce Nelson Sándor Lau Steven D. Williams Zhu Shen Connie Bottinelli